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Staff Stories

"Reaching out was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, but I'm so glad I did"
If my experience helps one person to ask for help, it'll be worth it

I thought long and hard about sharing my story. Was it too personal? Would it be going too far? Would anyone even be interested?

These and a million questions like them kept running through my mind, but in the end I decided that if my experience helps one person to pick up the phone and ask for help, it'll be worth it. Because reaching out was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, but I'm so glad I did.

In fact, I recently posted something about this on my private Instagram account, and the responses were just astounding. So many people I know are struggling but haven’t sought out counselling. They’ve just bottled it up and tried to tough it out. I understand that, I get that. But I also know it doesn’t have to be that way.

Being a new mum is supposed to be a happy time. So why wasn’t it?

I recently came back to work after maternity leave. Our first baby. While I was off, I developed severe anxiety and depression. I was really struggling and really didn’t know why. Sure, being a new mum is tough but it’s supposed to be a happy time too, right? So why wasn’t it? I felt guilty about even having these thoughts, but I couldn’t shift them.

The pandemic made things worse of course, heightened the anxiety – and I was isolated too, unable to get out and about and enjoy the things I used to do. My husband’s a key worker, so he went to work as usual. From being someone who’d always been able to cope, suddenly I felt overwhelmed and helpless.

One of the things I missed most was sport. It’s a massive part of my life. I grew up in England and when I moved to Belfast as an undergrad I was advised to get involved with a team as a way to make friends and so on. I was actually never very sporty at school, but I joined the women’s rugby team here at Queen’s – for a laugh more than anything, to be honest. But I really loved it. I got really into it, and found I was good at it too. After I graduated I joined Cooke and again, found the team spirit was incredible. And that’s something I really missed, as much as the sport side – the team spirit. As a new mum, you hear a lot about exercising to ‘get your pre-baby body back’. But sport offers so much more than exercise.

Counselling was life-changing – like a weight had been lifted

I decided to talk to someone, get some help. My GP arranged counselling and it made all the difference. I had six sessions of CBT and through that I've developed strategies for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings. The worrying and the panic have gone and I feel like myself again. I can honestly say it was life-changing for me – like a weight had been lifted.

I’m working from home, of course like so many people. It’s the way it is, at least for now. But just as soon as I possibly can, I’ll have my boots on and be back on the pitch. You can count on it!

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Image of staff member in Rugby clothes in Upper Malone Playing Fields, The Dub

But just as soon as I possibly can, I’ll have my boots back on.